Smith looking forward to end of torrid season

Published: Saturday, May 6, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:After a miserable run of one win in eight Tests South Africa captain Graeme Smith is looking forward to the end of the season.

Smith, whose own batting form has also suffered, leads South Africa in the third and final Test against New Zealand, starting today.

''I think we're all looking forward to packing the gloves and pads away, an opportunity to reflect and look back on the season. It's been a tough one, in which we've learnt a lot, especially myself,'' Smith told a news conference yesterday.

Smith has scored only 319 runs at an average of 21.26 during the southern hemisphere season's Tests which included five defeats and a draw against Australia.

''I've been very frustrated with my batting at Test level.

I've scored a lot of 30s and 40s and I keep doing the hard work and then doing stupid things to get out.'' Smith did not expect the pitch at the Wanderers in Johannesburg to make life any easier for batting.

''It's obviously going to do a bit, there's a good grass covering there,'' he said.

''As a batsman, you'll need to be really focused. It becomes very mental on wickets like these. You have to cut out certain shots and it's important not to be tentative, you tend to not move your feet and get stuck in the crease. You have to forget about what's gone past the bat,'' Smith said.

South Africa won the low-scoring first Test at Centurion by 128 runs and the second Test in Cape Town was drawn after New Zealand plundered 593 for eight and South Africa 512 in the first innings.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming told reporters a lively pitch in Johannesburg would suit his team's cause.

''A pitch that doesn't offer a lot would have made it really hard for us to make up the 1-0 deficit. But we've got better through the series. I thought the bowlers' performance was really good in Cape Town, even though the figures might not show it.

''If they can perform in the same way up here, with that pack mentality, then hopefully they will get the figures this time,'' Fleming said.

Fleming added South Africa would be under pressure in Johannesburg.

''I see there's been a lot of talk about South Africa's season basically being analysed in terms of this series. So if they don't win the series they'll be taking a ton of hits.

Unlike Smith, Fleming's batting form has been superb, the left-hander scoring a ground-record 262 in Cape Town last week.

''I'm not a massive goal-setter but I'm very happy with where my batting has gone recently...but you know that cricket can come back and bite you at any time,'' Fleming said.

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